Making ECD Systems Flow.

Factory-style workflow boards provide a visually effective way to identify blockages within the ECD registration system, focusing efforts on the key constraints and creating vastly more efficient processes.

The need

The delivery of ECD services at scale comes with real administrative challenges. One of the most significant challenges is the registration of ECD centres with the Department of Social Development (DSD).

There are an estimated 40 000 centres in South Africa, and each one must be registered at minimum every five years – a massive administrative hurdle, with registration of each site taking up to 12 months. If the centres aren’t registered, they are not able to access government funding or other support intended to improve service quality.

The registration process needs to be simplified. Blockages need to be identified and addressed, demands on the system need to be quantified, and stakeholders need to be fully engaged. Cost-effective and practical solutions to these issues will ensure that all ECD service providers are recognised, supported and accountable within Government systems.

The innovation

In partnership with the Department of Social Development and Ilifa Labantwana, Innovation Edge drew inspiration from the private sector to find simple solutions to improve registration systems efficiency.

The team piloted the use of factory-style workflow boards at two social development offices in Kwa-Zulu Natal province. Low-tech, simple workflow boards are often used in the private sector as a visualization tool. They have been shown to improve work efficiency and flow in factories across the world, because they clearly show what blockages in the system need to be addressed, and when.

The ECD workflow boards break down the registration system into eight simple steps – from site identification to issuing a registration certificate. Blockages in the registration process are quickly identified and easily prioritised so that efforts can be focused on the key constraint within the system.

Using the workflow boards over a period of six months, the project showed that the process could be made both simpler and more efficient. Within a year the workflow boards were successfully scaled to 32 service offices and our scaling partner, Ilifa Labantwana, continues to work with Government to on-board new sites.

Key insights

Simple and tested methods imported from the private sector offer a direct way of meeting the difficulties involved in ECD registration.

Visualization tools clarify a complex process, and make sure that social workers and other stakeholders are engaged and involved in providing young children with the care they need.

Making ECD Systems Flow enhances team productivity, and ensures that work is carried out systematically and efficiently.

The benefits to young children, their caregivers, and their communities are clear. High quality early learning depends on funding and support, and administrative backlog has long proved an obstacle in accessing that support.

Innovative approaches are needed, and the project shows how simply and effectively they can be implemented.

The project team

Network Action Group (NAG) is a network of grassroots organisations in the Ugu District of KwaZulu Natal. Their aim is to strengthen management and leadership in the CBO and NGO sectors, working closely with government departments.

Ilifa Labantwana works to secure an equal start for all children living in South Africa, through universal access to quality early childhood development.